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May 14, 2009
Notes from the Pentagon

Chinese influence
China's communist government has used its relationships with prominent Americans to further a propaganda effort aimed at influencing U.S. policies and softening economic sanctions, according to recent congressional testimony.

Those whose names, words or friendships have been invoked by China to influence the debate over sanctions include former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former President George H.W. Bush, said Anne-Marie Brady, an associate professor of political and social sciences at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Ms. Brady testified before the U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission April 30 that it is long-standing Chinese policy to exploit foreigners for global propaganda work.

"Historically, foreigners have been extremely useful in producing a wide range of propaganda materials, ranging from books, films and poetry, to public and private lobbying," she said.

In 1989, Chinese President Jiang Zemin ordered foreign diplomats to step up influence operations after the Tiananmen massacre by gaining support from "prominent foreigners friendly to China," she said. The goal was to influence Western governments into dropping sanctions imposed on China after the military crackdown on protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

"Henry Kissinger and George Bush senior are commonly cited as being particularly helpful to blunt the effects of sanctions in this period," Ms. Brady said.

"The foreign friends the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] has come to value most in the post-1989 period are prominent foreign figures that can bring commercial and political advantages to China and the Chinese oligarchy. Public agreement on China's political positions is not required, though it might help business along a little."

Ms. Brady did not provide further details on how figures like Mr. Bush or Mr. Kissinger are used in the propaganda efforts. But a U.S. defense official said the Chinese government invests vast resources in seeking out prominent Americans whose views coincide with many aspects of Chinese foreign policy. The Chinese can provide preferential business treatment and access to senior Chinese leaders as a way to enhance the standing of these former officials.

China's government also limits criticism of China by blocking visits to the country by perceived opponents of China.

Asked about China's efforts to block or remove U.S. sanctions, Larry Wortzel, co-chairman of the commission, said the Tiananmen-related sanctions remain important for U.S. national security because of growing Chinese military capabilities. "If the U.S. lifted sanctions, it would open the floodgates for European arms sales to China," Mr. Wortzel said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Kissinger said the former secretary of state was traveling and could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for Mr. Bush could not be reached.

Chinese Embassy spokeswoman Wei Xin did not address the points raised at the hearing in an e-mail response.

"China has solemnly stated on many occasions that China never does anything undermining the interest of others and China advocates cooperation between countries on the basis of fairness, justice, equality and mutual benefit," Ms. Wei said.

Ross Terrill, a historian at the Harvard University Fairbank Center for Asian Studies, testified that China is using money to try to manipulate foreign opinions of China.

"A symbiosis occurs between Americans who benefit from business or other success with China and American institutions," he said. "Money may appear from a businessman with excellent connections in China and it is hard for a think tank, needing funds for its research on China, to decline it. But the money may bring with it major Chinese ideological input into the program of the U.S. think tank."

Ms. Brady also said China is working to plant Chinese propaganda in Western news media. "China's propagandists try to get foreign newspapers to do China's propaganda work; this is called 'borrowing foreign newspapers,' " she said.

Beijing announced early this year that it will invest $6.6 billion in its media organs to increase news coverage. Xinhua, the official news agency that U.S. officials say is frequently used as cover for Chinese intelligence personnel, is increasing its foreign bureaus from 100 to 186. China also is setting up a new satellite television station to beam Chinese propaganda around the world. "As such this new initiative could well have a significant impact in strengthening China's soft power internationally," Ms. Brady said.

Another specialist, Jacqueline Newmyer, president of the Long Term Strategy Group, told the commission hearing that Chinese foreign-directed information operations are part of a broader Chinese strategy involving Beijing's development.

"Clearly ... the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership is trying to influence or shape American perceptions of, and policies toward, China," she said.

"Mainly, up to now, these efforts have been in the direction of reassurance, to allay U.S. concerns about China's economic rise, military buildup, and increasing political and diplomatic influence."

Gen. David E. Baker
Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David E. Baker, an F-15 combat pilot and former prisoner of war from the Vietnam War, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday with full military honors.

Gen. Baker, 62, was honored with a 21-gun salute and a flyover by a group of F-15 jets.

"He was an American hero," retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Donald Shepperd said during a funeral service at Fort Myer's Old Post Chapel.

Spying on the spies
According to a U.S. intelligence official, a unit under the National Counterintelligence Executive (NCIX) is conducting an assessment of an outside panel of experts that was formed recently to examine the highly secret world of U.S. counterintelligence, including the spy coordinating agency known as NCIX.

The evaluation is being done by a little-known unit called the Community Acquisition Risk Section (CARS), which examines counterspy risks related to intelligence contractors and purchases, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the review is sensitive.

The review panel is headed by former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh and was first reported in this space on April 16. The panel was set up by Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair to review U.S. government efforts to counter foreign spying, which has been identified by officials as a growing problem.

Mr. Freeh recently appeared in the PBS "Frontline" documentary on Saudi government corruption as a spokesman for Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador in Washington and a national security adviser to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah.

DNI spokeswoman Wendy Moragi said she was not aware of any CARS review of the panel.

According to a federal job Web site, analysts within CARS are tasked with conducting assessments that "address the threat from foreign subversions of intelligence community (IC) acquisitions."

"CARS evaluates the risk to the IC posed by commercial entities conducting business with the individual components of the IC," the Web site stated in a recent posting seeking analysts for hire.

Analysts at CARS investigate planned acquisitions by intelligence agencies "focusing specifically on national and foreign vendors to assess the threat that vendors may pose to the component and the IC."

They also use classified and public on-line databases for assessments of counterintelligence threats "posed by corporate entities seeking to do business with the IC."

China military exchanges
Pentagon officials are trying to figure out how to resume stalled U.S.-China military relations, which were cut off by Beijing last fall over U.S. arms sales to China's rival, Taiwan. A few exchanges have been held in recent weeks, including a visit to China by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead.

But defense officials say privately that the "mil-to-mil" program remains off track.

"The Chinese discovered last fall that the Americans want mil-to-mil contacts more than they do," said one defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to represent the department.

This official said the Chinese "lost interest" in military exchanges with the Pentagon after Congress imposed restrictions in 2000 that prevented the U.S. military from sharing or showing key strategic capabilities, like power projection weapons and advanced war-fighting facilities, to the Chinese military.

Getting any new relations jump-started will be a major challenge for the new assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs, Wallace C. "Chip" Gregson, whom defense officials described as a no-nonsense retired three-star Marine Corps general.

The Senate confirmed Mr. Gregson, former commander of Marine forces in Japan, on May 8.

Budget speak
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has taken another step in controlling what is said about the 2010 Pentagon budget, special correspondent Rowan Scarborough reports.

Mr. Gates wrote an April 30 memo to the Joint Chiefs and worldwide combatant commanders, ordering them to check with him first before sending their unfunded requirements to Congress.

The memo reverses at least a decade-old custom of four-star officers bypassing the secretary's office and directly sending Congress a list of weapons and programs they want but that the White House did not include in the budget.

Earlier this year, during internal debate on the 2010 budget, Mr. Gates took the unusual step of having generals, admirals and senior civilian employees sign an agreement pledging not to discuss deliberations with the press or Congress.

In the April 30 memo, Mr. Gates wrote, "Should you determine there are FY2010 unfunded requirements that are responsive to the request from the Congress, I expect you to first inform me of such a determination so we can schedule the opportunity for you to brief me on the details."

Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman, told Inside the Ring that the Gates request is authorized by federal law.

"He's changing the practice, he's not changing the law," Mr. Whitman said. He said the defense secretary is saying, "You can certainly report those to Congress. Just give me the courtesy of informing me first and briefing me on what they are."

  • Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or at

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